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The state of VPN in 2024: A cybersecurity roundtable discussion

Marijus Briedis CTO NordVPN
Justas Pukys Product Manager at Surfshark
Lukas Mačėnas Product Owner at Atlas VPN

Have you ever wondered how and why the professionals use a VPN? And if they had any tips and tricks to help users get the most out of their VPNs? And, in this brave new world of AI and quantum computing, what the future holds for VPNs and cybersecurity in general?

We sat down with experts at three of the leading VPN providers to discuss just these issues. Read on to find out what they all thought.

Who’s who in our roundtable discussion

VPN roundtable discussion

Independent Advisor: First of all, tell us how you personally use a VPN day to day.

Justas Pukys: I use VPN services 24/7 for maximum safety and privacy online. Nowadays, a VPN has become an important daily tool, helping me to bypass trackers, and with its implemented features, such as ad-blocker, I can avoid unnecessary advertising, search privately, and not disclose my location.

These days VPNs are powerful enough and well-developed not to clash with everyday tasks. That’s why such services can and should be turned on all day long for the most effective online security and privacy. Considering how much time users spend communicating online, this all-round personal online identity safeguarding and preserving is really important for anyone using the internet.

Marijus Briedis: VPN tech evolved to be reliable and easy to use in the background for infinite amounts of time. So it runs on my phone and all my devices 24/7; you can see it on my usage statistics screenshot from the phone app. A million things happen around you daily, so it comforts me that [my] VPN is running silently and efficiently in the background, and I can sort of turn it on and forget about it. In extra cases, I switch servers if I need to access something restricted by my ISP or particular work site. The Meshnet feature is also convenient when dealing with devices at home while being away. 

Lukas Mačėnas: I use a VPN to ensure a secure internet connection, especially when accessing public wifi networks. This protects my sensitive data from potential hackers or eavesdroppers.

Privacy is important to me, so I rely on a VPN to mask my IP address and prevent third parties from tracking my online activities. This helps me maintain anonymity and safeguards my personal information.

As part of my job, I also often need to test how the website works in different locations. For example, we have payment methods only available in specific countries. Using VPN is the only way I can test them.

Independent Advisor: What tips do you have to get the most out of a VPN?

Justas: One: keep your VPN application updated. Regular updates ensure that a user’s device has the latest security and privacy solutions, along with new features offered by the VPN. 

Two: choose the right server location. If users’ primary goal is securing browsing on the internet, they should select a server closest to their location for optimal speed and quality. For maximum protection, they must consider using MultiHop locations, which offer enhanced security for online activities. 

Three: explore additional features of VPN applications. Take the time to delve deeper into what other features VPN applications offer. For example, Surfshark additionally provides specific modes like ‘NoBorders mode’, which aids in accessing content in countries with internet restrictions. Also, check if a VPN offers browser extensions.

And four: utilise a VPN beyond privacy and security. VPNs have broader applications beyond privacy and security. They can help users purchase cheaper flight tickets and find better priced travel deals overall.

Marijus: Such as any tips to increase download speed? The rule of thumb is to always connect to the nearest physical server available to you, guaranteeing you will receive the fastest connection. If you need a specific location, take a closer look at the VPN protocols your VPN offers. Some, like NordLynx, are specifically designed with ultra-fast speeds in mind so they can give you a significant speed boost. 

The most advanced VPNs are blurring the lines between being just a VPN and comprehensive cybersecurity tools. So look for advanced features that provide not only a secure and private connection but also broader protection against digital threats. Why is privacy important to you? True autonomy and personal freedom are impossible without privacy. Privacy allows me to have control over my personal information and the choices I make. It enables me to decide how my data is collected, used, and shared, so I only give as much information as I intend. 

Lukas: One important tip is to choose a VPN server that is geographically close to your physical location. By connecting to a nearby server, you can reduce latency and improve overall performance. This is because the data has a shorter distance to travel, resulting in faster speeds.

In addition, it is worth considering the encryption protocol the VPN uses. Some protocols, such as WireGuard, are known for their efficiency and can offer better speeds than others. However, remember the protocol choice may depend on your specific needs and security preferences.

Lastly, ensure your internet connection is optimised for speed. Close unnecessary applications or processes that may be consuming bandwidth. Additionally, you could consider upgrading your internet plan and troubleshooting any issues with your ISP to get the maximum speed possible.

Independent Advisor: Why is privacy important to you?

Justas: A multitude of advertisers, internet service providers, and various entities persist in their pursuit to track individuals’ online activities. They can use gathered data for targeted advertising or even resell the data to other parties, such as data brokers. This makes it difficult not only to avoid unnecessary advertising but also to maintain one’s online privacy. It is crucial to retain authority over personal information and comprehend its usage, including potential sale or data collection by third parties.

Moreover, safeguarding online privacy helps protect personal information from falling into the wrong hands. This includes sensitive details such as home addresses, phone numbers, financial information, and Social Security numbers. By protecting personal data, the risk of identity theft, fraud, and other forms of cybercrime can be reduced. According to Surfshark’s Data Vulnerability Thermometer, investment fraud cost the average victim US$108,000 in losses last year, making it the most financially devastating cybercrime in the world, albeit not as common as phishing. In 2022, 31,000 people fell victim to investment fraud.

While there are other aspects to consider, I believe these to be the most pivotal and capable of inflicting significant harm. Prioritising online privacy serves as a protective measure to mitigate such risks and safeguard against their detrimental consequences.

Lukas: Personally, privacy contributes to my psychological wellbeing. It allows me to manage my personal boundaries and establish a sense of control and peace of mind.

Also, privacy is closely linked to freedom of speech and thought. When I have privacy, I can freely express my opinions, beliefs, and ideas without fear of persecution or reprisal. 

Finally, privacy acts as a critical foundation for ensuring personal security. By preserving privacy, I can maintain control over my personal information, such as bank account details, medical records, and other private data, and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. When privacy is compromised, personal data can be exploited, leading to identity theft, financial fraud, and even physical harm.

Independent Advisor: What can’t a VPN protect people from?

Justas: While VPNs offer enhanced security, it’s important to note that they cannot solely protect individuals from viruses and malware. For this reason, it is recommended to use a reliable and certified antivirus software such as Surfshark Antivirus and maintain a proactive approach to security, such as updating the antivirus regularly.

And secondly, social engineering. VPNs are not specifically designed to safeguard against social engineering attacks, which involve manipulation, deception and other human factors. To defend against such attacks, it is crucial to remain vigilant, practise critical thinking, and be cautious while sharing personal information online. 

One of the most prominent social engineering examples is phishing: phishing attacks are solely based on social engineering. It is important to educate oneself about numerous and constantly improving phishing techniques, be cautious when clicking on suspicious links or sharing sensitive information, and employ additional security measures such as two-factor authentication (2FA) where possible.

Marijus: In cybersecurity terms, simple VPNs cannot protect users from advanced attacks and viruses, but that’s probably not their aim in the first place. Advanced VPNs offer much more, but just like everything else in cybersecurity, no single tool alone can be a universal silver bullet against all potential digital threats. 

Lukas: While a VPN offers numerous benefits in terms of online privacy and security, it does have limitations. For example, VPNs do not provide comprehensive protection against malware, viruses, or other forms of malicious software. To safeguard against these threats, it is important to use reputable antivirus and anti-malware software.

Similarly, VPNs do not directly protect against phishing attacks. Phishing involves deceptive tactics, such as fraudulent emails, websites, or messages, designed to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information. Mitigating phishing threats requires user vigilance, recognising common phishing techniques, and employing email filters and security measures.

Most importantly, do not expect that the website you are registering to is secure. Do not reuse passwords. Think twice before adding your personal information.

Justas: Last year, a significant advancement was made in the industry with the development of a Software Defined Networking (SDN) system. This system connects VPN servers into a single, global network, representing a notable progression. Surfshark has pioneered and patented this innovative approach known as ‘Nexus’. Instead of relying on a single VPN tunnel, users’ traffic is routed through a network of servers. This implementation brings several benefits, including the obscuring and hiding of users’ traffic, improved performance stability, and enhanced VPN connection speed.

This innovation lets us provide users with other new features such as IP Rotator (which changes the user’s exit IP address on the chosen location every five to 10 minutes without disconnecting the user from the VPN) and Dynamic Multihop (which enables users to select their VPN entry and exit destination from the existing list of servers). Because of its Nexus innovation, Surfshark VPN has been named the VPN Solution of the Year in the sixth annual CyberSecurity Breakthrough Awards programme.

Marijus: Observing how PQC (Post-Quantum Cryptography) is making its first steps in various industries is truly fascinating. We see how its adoption is taking place in VPN protocols as well. The challenges that come with that and the potential benefits make it one of the most exciting advancements in the VPN market and the cybersecurity industry in general.

Lukas: One notable trend and advancement in VPN technology is the widespread adoption of the WireGuard protocol. WireGuard is a modern VPN protocol that provides improved performance, security, and simplicity compared to legacy VPN protocols like OpenVPN and IPSec.

WireGuard also supports seamless roaming, allowing users to switch between different network connections – for example wifi to mobile data or between wifi networks – without interrupting the VPN connection. This is particularly useful for mobile devices and ensures uninterrupted VPN protection during transitions.

It was designed by Jason A Donenfeld and initially released in 2016. Since then, it has gained significant attention and has been incorporated into various VPN software and platforms. Its growing popularity demonstrates the industry’s recognition of the protocol’s potential to shape the future of VPNs.

Justas Pukys is Product Manager at Surfshark, Marijus Briedis is CTO at NordVPN, and Lukas Mačėnas, Product Owner at Atlas VPN.

Round up of today’s best VPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
£2.49 /Month
Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
£1.79 /Month
ExpressVPN 12 month £6.79 /Month
£6.79 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.26 /Month
£4.26 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
£1.99 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £4.60 /Month
£4.60 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £2.92 /Month
£2.92 /Month

Nick Jones

Editor in Chief

Nick Jones is a highly experienced consumer journalist and editor, who has been writing and producing content for print and online media for over 25 years.

He has worked at some of the UK’s leading publishers including Future Publishing, Highbury Entertainment, and Imagine Publishing, with publications as diverse as Homebuilding & Renovating, TechRadar, and Creative Bloq, writing and editing content for audiences whose interests include history, computing, gaming, films, and science. He’s also produced a number of podcasts in the technology, science, gaming, and true crime genres.

Nick has also enjoyed a highly successful career in content marketing, working in a variety of topics such as health, technology, and finance, with market-leading global companies including Cisco, Pfizer, Santander, and Virgin Media.

Now the Editor-in-Chief of the Independent Advisor, Nick is involved in all aspects of the site’s content, where his expertise in finance, technology, and home products informs every article that’s published on-site. He takes a hands-on approach with our VPN content, penning a number of the articles himself, and verifying that everything we publish in this topic is accurate.

Whatever the area of interest he’s worked in, Nick has always been a consumer champion, helping people find the best deals and give them the information they need to make an informed buying decision.

Marijus Briedis headshot

Marijus Briedis

CTO NordVPN

Marijus is a CTO (chief technical officer) at NordVPN. He has been working in the cybersecurity sphere for seven years now. During his time at Nord Security, one of his most significant achievements was designing, creating, and implementing NordLynx — the fastest and most innovative VPN technology built around the WireGuard protocol.

Marijus oversees a big team of developers, system administrators, and other tech professionals who help Nord Security grow in the fast-paced cyber security environment. Together with other tech leaders in the company, he helps develop products and is responsible for a top-notch user experience.

Marijus shares his knowledge with cybersecurity experts around Europe by giving interviews to outlets like Bloomberg, Authority Magazine, TechRadar, and others. He also participates as a speaker in numerous cybersecurity events like ITBN in Hungary, Cyber Security Accelerator in Ukraine, and Hacker Camps around Europe.

Justas Pukys headshot

Justas Pukys

Product Manager at Surfshark

Justas is a certified IT systems manager with 8 years of hands-on experience in the telco, energy, and technology sectors. His expertise includes VPN technologies, engineering practices, and IT systems management.

Previously, Justas worked as an information systems specialist and data analyst in the Ministry of Education of Lithuania. In this role, he worked on the AIKOS system, managing database administration, requirements preparation, and educating system users. Additionally, he has experience in electrical engineering (as an electrical designer at first, but later switching to a more managing role) and renewable energy (as a project manager for the maintenance and development of solar power plants).

For the past two years, Justas has been focusing on the cybersecurity field as a Product Manager for Surfshark’s VPN. In addition, Justas is a lecturer at VilniusTech, one of Lithuania’s esteemed universities. He teaches subjects, such as Software Systems Engineering, Development of Business Information Systems, Artificial Intelligence, and Knowledge Systems.